There’s an interesting story in Numbers 22:21-35. You really should read it now unless you’re very familiar with it. It’s the story of a prophet of God, Balaam, who was tempted to curse Israel. But on the way, an angel of the Lord stood in his way but only the donkey could see him. The donkey refused to move and Balaam beat that poor donkey, not understanding it was actually God’s means of preventing him from sin.
Finally, God opened Balaam’s eyes and he too saw the angel. Then we read this;
“The angel of the Lord asked him, ‘Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.’ Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, ‘I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.’ The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, ‘Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.’ So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.” Numbers 22:32-35
So, how does this story apply to you and me? I can’t tell you how many times I have been tempted to do something very unwise, or sinful and something happened to prevent that, frustrating me.
In 2008, only six months before the beginning of the Great Recession, my wife and I were in Florida. While driving around aimlessly one day we drove down a gravel road and there was a small charming cottage, only 900 sq. ft., built in 1920, for sale at a very reasonable price. I’ve never wanted a house in Florida, but my wife has. We both fell in love with the place and put in a low-ball offer that day which was rejected. But I was so excited with this place, I was willing to pay full price. But very uncharacteristically, Susan thought that would not be wise. I argued with her. “We can afford to pay cash for the place” and the 16 other reasons why this was a good deal we’d be foolish to pass up.
Susan said, “There is something in my spirit that is uncomfortable with this decision.” I accepted he decision, but begrudgingly.
Six months later, the economy went into a free-fall, along with our finances. I praised God for giving Susan that warning. Meaning absolutely no disrespect to her, I believe she was my “donkey” from God. Aside from the finances, I believe God wanted me, and us, to stay fully engaged in ministry in Grand Rapids and not distracted by killing time pleasantly in warm places for a few months. Since that time, God has allowed me to begin and engage in a number of new ministries that I might have passed on if he had not sent his angel, or Holy Spirit to speak wisdom to my wife, when I was ready to throw my brains out the window!
So, has God put a donkey in your path recently, particularly in the Corona Virus economy? Has he frustrated your plans to retire, to buy a small business, or even to go into missions? Not every frustrated dream is “of the Lord” but perhaps some are. You might never know this side of the grave.
On a darker note, you may have been engaged in a sinful relationship, or were being tempted to do so, that this time of isolation has cooled. You may have a strained relationship with your teenage child going into this period of isolation, that has forced you to spend more time to together getting to know each other.
My experience is that it’s tough seeing what God is doing in your life and mine in the windshield. It’s often only in the rear-view mirror that we can see God protecting and guiding us.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 11:21
How following Jesus works in real life.
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